Thunderbirds Return to Air Show Skies after Sequestration Cuts

Famed Air Force demonstration squadron will return to the air after sequestration grounding.

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The famed Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team will return to streaking through air show skies, following an announcement from the Department of Defense that it has found money to overturn grounding the unit.

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The Pentagon announced in April that the Thunderbirds, along with about a third of other Air Force active-duty combat air units could not fly for the remainder of the fiscal year, citing severe budget cuts. The Navy's version, the Blue Angels, also announced it would be cutting the remainder of its shows for the fiscal year.

 

Congress allocated the department to shift roughly $7.5 billion from other accounts that were a lower priority to fund more vital operations, reports the Associated Press. Restoring these flying hours will cost roughly $208 million, which will only last through Oct. 1.

Planes in Europe, the Pacific and the U.S. would take off again on Monday, according to Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

The Thunderbirds official website still states as of midday Monday that all shows after April 1 will be canceled.

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It had originally scheduled 12 shows for dates after Monday, including Dayton, Ohio; Cheyenne, Wyo. and an overseas Pacific/Asia show. Some shows, such as in Kalispell, Mont. or Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas, have been canceled indefinitely by the organizers.

The demonstration team, which flies the F-16 Falcon, was founded in 1953 and is dubbed "America's Ambassadors in Blue." The unit consists of 120 enlisted personnel and 12 officers, eight of whom are experienced pilots who serve two-year tours.

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